Julia Kurnik also authored this Guide.
If this night is great for Republicans and a nightmare for Democrats, then those headlines were written weeks, if not months, in advance. The mid-point of expectations is that Democrats will lose seats in the Senate but will maintain their majority by one to three seats, lose enough seats to give Republicans control of the House of Representatives and get shellacked in governors races while also losing control of many state legislatures. This, sadly for Democrats, is the scenario we will call "On Trend."
We will call the best scenario for Democrats the "Blue Escape", which is anything that involves retaining control of both sides of Capitol Hill, which really means holding onto control of the House of Representatives -- even by a single seat. It wouldn't hurt to win a few more than half of the too-close-to-call senate and gubernatorial races, but if you are a Democrat holding on to hope as long as possible, keep your eye on the House races unless and until the networks call control of the House. If this happens fairly early, say before 10:30 EDT or so, you may not want to stay up late. Read on and we will tell you what to watch to know if this will happen before the networks make their calls.
The best Republican scenario, "Red Wave" is anything that involves taking control of the Senate, or racking up truly historic gains in the House (beyond 50 to a 60 or 70 seat gain). We will get some evidence of whether this type of wave really did materialize for Republicans in the House fairly early, but any realistic hope for Republicans to win control of the Senate will only come quite late, likely needing victories in some or all of the western states' Senate races in Nevada, California, Washington and Alaska.
The CenteredPolitics Hour-by-Hour Guide will keep your attention tuned to the races that will determine which of these scenarios rule the evening (and perhaps the next morning -- and perhaps several following days as late votes are counted, or re-counted, and the efforts to spin continue.)
We will keep our eye on about half of the 37 Senate seats up for election. It would be a major surprise if Democrats lose any of their 6 solid seats including Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont, and two seats in New York. We can put Delaware in this category as well with Christine O'Donnell as the Republican nominee. Keeping those 7 seats would assure the Democrats at least 47 seats, three short of the number they need (50 with the Vice President as tie breaking vote) heading into Election Night.
The Republicans only have 23 seats that are not up for election in 2010. In addition there are 12 solid Republican seats: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah. Adding these together, Republicans start the evening with 35 seats and needing to win 16 of the 18 remaining seats to get to 51 seats and control of the Senate in January (without any party switching going on).
The 18 Senate races to watch sorted by poll closing times with links to the latest polls from Pollster:
(Republicans need 16, Democrats need just 3 -- all times EDT):
*Polls close at different times throughout the state, so the time listed is the first time when a majority of polls in the state will be closed -- this is the earliest time a network might choose to call a race.
The unbolded seats in the list above are most likely to come in for the Republicans, but even if they all fall into line, Democrats just need to win 3 of the 9 bolded contests to deny GOP a majority in the Senate.
We will also be following key races needed for control of the House of Representatives. While all of the seats in the House are up for election, there are about 70 seats that are truly going to decide control of the chamber. Watch these races closely, especially the ones that close early in the evening, in order to predict the outcome at the end of the night when all of the votes have been counted. These 70 races are detailed in the hour by hour guide below.
Finally, 37 of the 50 states will be holding gubernatorial elections as well and 13 of these are the most competitive.
The thirteen key Governors races sorted by poll closing times (EDT) with links to the latest polls from Pollster:
So go get whatever you're drinking and some crudités from the buffet and get ready for a long evening. Here is the first installment of the CenteredPolitics.com Hour by Hour Guide to Election Night 2010.
6:00 PM Polls close in most of Indiana and just over half of Kentucky. The other parts of both states are in the Central Time Zone and their polls will close at 7 PM EDT, but if one candidate is doing well enough against their projections, the networks could make a call in the Kentucky Senate race as early as 6:00 PM.
Senate: The first big race to watch of the evening is the race for Jim Bunning's seat that pits Rand Paul (R, son of Ron Paul, a Tea Party and libertarian favorite) against Jack Conway (D, State Attorney General). Paul had some early stumbles, particularly over his views on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but the latest polls put him well ahead. Kentucky Democrats and the progressive blogosphere hope Paul will suffer a late slide due to an incident where Tim Profitt, a volunteer Paul Campaign Coordinator assaulted Lauren Valle, a MoveOn.org activist outside a recent debate. A close race and a slow decision would be good signs for Democrats. Kentucky is one of the 18 states Republicans need to get 16 from, so an unlikely Conway win would by itself almost completely derail the Red Wave scenario.
D -- R
__ __ KY-6: The first House race to watch of the night pits Ben Chandler (D) trying to hang onto his seat versus Garland Barr (R). Chandler voted for the Recovery Act and against healthcare reform. Chandler is polling slightly ahead in a close race.
Part 2: 7:00 and 7:30 is HERE
Part 3: 8:00 Hour is coming soon
Part 4: 9:00 Hour is coming soon
Part 5: 10:00 Hour is coming soon
Part 6: 11:00 to the Bitter End is coming soon.
Follow Sheri and Allan Rivlin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CenteredPols